Courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
After years of whispers and reported sightings, wildlife officials have confirmed at least two wolves caught on trail cameras earlier this month roaming the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon’s northern Cascade Mountains.
It is the first time multiple wolves were detected in the area since the species returned to Oregon in the late 1990s. Conservationists cheered the news Wednesday, while local ranchers anticipated further conflict with their livestock.
Because they are located west of highways 395, 78 and 95, management of the wolves falls to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wolves remain a federally listed endangered species in Western Oregon.
John Stephenson, wildlife biologist and Oregon wolf coordinator for the USFWS, said the presence of wolves near Mount Hood comes as no surprise. For years, Stephenson said there have been frequent wolf sightings and documentation of dispersers from other packs in northeast Oregon.
“Now there’s two, and they’ve been there for a while now,” Stephenson said. “We’ll probably attempt to get a collar on one of them at some point and collect scat so we can figure out where they came from.”
Josh Laughlin, executive director of the Eugene-based environmental group Cascadia Wildlands, said it is heartening to see gray wolves continuing to reoccupy historic territories across the Northwest after they were nearly exterminated.
“It also underscores the need to maintain safeguards for this unique species that continues to be under fire by special interest groups and politicians,” Laughlin said. “It is imperative that protections are upheld for the gray wolf as it continues its remarkable recovery in the region.”
Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said the group is very concerned about the establishment of wolves on the west side of Oregon.
“We’re just beginning to see the conflicts that are going to be happening,” Rosa said. “These wolves are apex predators. I think a lot of folks, particularly on the west side who make policy on wildlife issues, don’t realize how aggressive and how deadly these wolves are.”
Most recently, the Rogue pack in southwest Oregon was responsible for preying on cattle three times in eight days at the same ranch in south of Prospect. Rosa said the problems between wolves and livestock will only continue to escalate.
Keith Nantz, a cattle rancher near Maupin, said Wasco County established a wolf compensation committee several years ago in anticipation for when the predators arrived. With the species listed as federally endangered, he said that leaves producers with few options other than non-lethal deterrents to protect their herds.
“I’m pretty upset about not having the control to protect our livelihood and our private property,” he said.
In the meantime, Rosa urged ranchers to make sure they report any suspected livestock predation to state and wildlife authorities.
“We know that it’s difficult for them, but we need them to notify when there is a predation that occurs,” Rosa said. “Some of them are frustrated enough that they don’t want to take the time and the effort to do it ... But we need to have those continued depredations reported so that we can be able to help them.”